Investors’ Class Action lawsuit against Harlequin shaping up in the United Kingdom

Does Harlequin really have any significant net assets?

TSL Global Consultancy is preparing a class action lawsuit by investors against Harlequin, David Ames and associated companies of which there are many.

“Dozens and dozens” of dissatisfied people who invested in Harlequin projects in the Caribbean and Thailand are contacting TSL, a source close to the company tells Barbados Free Press. It is expected that several hundred investors will sign onto the lawsuit.

Some observers, however, are questioning just how much money and assets still exist under the the Harlequin umbrella in light of the extremely high commissions paid to agents (over 30% according to some sources) and profits already taken by the Ames family and close associates.

Some sources indicate that Harlequin has taken in over £200 million in deposits from trusting investors but only a fraction of this exists now.

According to the now-defunct Harlecon.net website, large areas of indicated development at various Harlequin projects are actually ‘planned’ on land not yet purchased by Harlequin which holds only purchase options on land surrounding smaller plots where some building is taking place.

In March of 2012 BFP ran a story that the U.K. Serious Fraud Office had opened an investigation of Harlequin Resorts. This followed a February report that Harlequin’s auditors had refused to sign off on the accounts, and a recent report that Harlequin had sued its accountants as being responsible for the Harlecon.net website.

Oh dear!

For access to all Barbados Free Press stories on Harlequin, click here

Interested investors can contact the class action lawsuit directly at:

TSL Consultancy

Email: info@tslconsultancy.com

Phone: 0844 504 9793 in the United Kingdom.

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29 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business & Banking, Consumer Issues, Offshore Investments

29 responses to “Investors’ Class Action lawsuit against Harlequin shaping up in the United Kingdom

  1. yatiniteasy

    This is not a surprising development. What is surprising is how long it has taken to get to this stage. I suppose people (investors) who parted with large sums of money were waiting and hoping that Ames would do what was promised, that is, build the stuff that was sold to them.
    Also,whatever happened to Harequin Airlines?Just another lie?

  2. A policy holder

    What is really frightening is how just a few people with a sweet mouth and often a vivid imagination can come up with projects of such humongous proportions that the greedy among the “honest” want a piece of the action.
    Harlequin is gigantic. Thailand, South America, here. Just dropping the countries with well photoshopped pictures of buildings in place and infinity pools pouring water over a mountainside are attention grabbers and these boys know how to work you IF YOU SHOW TOO MUCH ATTENTION AND ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

  3. 197 anonymous

    all those investors please remember your contracts are with the “overseas” companies of which no accounts have been submitted and who may in reality have little assets for you to chase. HMSSE are just the uk agents and your contract is not with them.You may want to consider complaint via the fsa regarding advice from you ifa / adviser if you feel that the product was mis-sold OR contact the SFO if you have serious concerns. the more people that contact them the more likely they are to act and this can only be positive for all parties concerned.either this gets shut down OR all it gets the all clear.

  4. you should all realise that the more you spread negative stuff about harlequin ,the less likely they’ll be able to get the backing they need to complete their projects-so you are shooting your own selves in the foot really.. our totally Independant financial Advisor,who has invested themself in harlequin, went on the tour recently of all the developments.,filmed all the visits,and showed us last monday.
    Basically,Dominican republic is near completion,Barbados just needs refurbishment,St.Lucia looks like being another 5-10 years realistically,because the land is subject to all sorts of environmental controls,which have to be met before planning permission is given.but it is absolutely stunning,and I feel its only right that conservation is given priority over profit. Please beware of scaremongering endangering our financial securities, the co.is forging ahead and can do really well-its just not going to be as quick as Dave Ames predicted..of that he IS guilty- but if we hold fire we should all do alright in the long term.-though we are greatly dissapointed in the time delay that has meant our retirement is way further off than hoped-but still better to get there in the end than bring the co.down with all of our financial futures with it.

  5. anonymous197

    sandy. i think you need to speak to your ifa again. domincan republic has not even started yet. the overall plans have been finalised but to my knowledge the actual build has not even started. barbados “merricks” – only show homes being built (no real progress for the 1000 or so investors there). the harlequin H in barbados is far from just need refurbishing (look at the latest harlequin video and photos on this site and you will see that there is clearly more long term work to do).

    i agree that all this speculation is not helpful for the investors or company but the reasons for it are clear. Harlequin need to be open and honest about how much money they have left to build ALL these resorts and how they are going to fund the builds/backers/finance in place etc as as beautiful as the CGI pics look they are just that.how much will the resorts cost to build including infastructure, properties, amenities. i would guess hundreds of millions . just how are they going to pay for it?

  6. anonymous197

    to all investors especially those who invested via a SIPP.

    1.did your advisor carry out a full assessment of your attitude to risk etc before recommending this investment.

    2. did they make it clear that this is an unregulated investment and hence no protection from fsa or fscs.

    3. whilst sippable did they explain that this just means the type of investment has been approved by HMRC and SIPP provider. this does not mean that either party has a duty to carry out any due diligence as to the merits of the investment itself or how the funds etc are used.

    4. did they tell you how much commission they were going to earn from introducing you to harlequin . in some cases earning as much a a third of your investment e.g if you invested £30k, they got £10k. harlequin are on record as offering between 6-10% commission on the purchase price..

  7. 144

    Above post is important for anyone who really wants to get their money back.

    Sandy, I am afraid you have been misled, having seen these sites. Merricks has not started yet, just show homes. H Hotel is not a refurbishment, it is a virtual rebuild and there is very little going on there at the moment, with often very few workers on site. Marquis in St Lucia has not begun, nor has any project in the DR. They have not even BEGUN yet.

    Maquis cannot happen, it just is not a site that you can do what they say they want to do, unless prepared to invest enormous sums of money. You are prepared to take a 5-10 year view on it, but where do you think the money would come from to build it then? The money has been spent elsewhere very clearly, and therefore Ames would have to sell more property at another project to fund the build and pass the problem on to other buyers, hence accusations of Pnzi/pyramid schemes. But such schemes have a life span and it will come to an end before the resorts are even begun most likely (if indeed it is one).

    Yes, negative news does hurt the investment, but better that this comes to an end before more people lose money they can ill afford to lose. Why do you think Ames has body guards? There are developers in the region worth thousands of what Ames is worth, and they dont have body guards anywhere near. The difference being that they made their money legitimately, and not from taking commissions frmo investor deposits and then not building anything. The large majority of the Caribbean businesss community that I know believe this to be a scam and want it brought to an end now and so we can all just deal with the fallout now rather than wait the inevitable.

    The onus is on Ames and Harlequin to prove they are not a scam, and they can only do that by building NOW, it has been years of waiting, and not start new developments or buy new small hotels but to get on with those commitments that have been commitments since 2006. I wish this were not so, but the promises and bleating have gone on too long, and it should be clear to any investor of any experience that their investment is extremely unlikely to ever be worth anything at all. And you did not hear it here first, this has been predicted for years by many in the region and repeated on many investment forums, just they all were shut down by Carter Ruck so that potential investors could not do much research online about Harlquin, other than what Harlequin wanted investors to see.

    As always, buying off plan and site unseen in the Caribbean or anywhere is just never a good idea. Good luck though, and if invested via a SIPP of IFA, the above is a very sound way of trying to get money back, unless of course investors still believe in this, which again, good luck and just check into the background of the person you are putting your faith in.

  8. 18

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA……sweet mout Limeys teeeefffff wunnah!!

  9. yatiniteasy

    @Sandy Gear…what point does it make lying about what Harlequin has built?You said that you were shown films of the developments taken recently, and that “basically, Dominican Republic is near completion”…Either you are as delusional as Mr Ames, or you are an outright desperate liar who never saw such a video. The reason I say this is because nothing has been built as yet in the Dominican republic, so you could NOT have seen a video of that project.
    “Barbados just needs refurbishment”….what about the 1000 villas plus 5 Star Hotel development at Merricks Barbados, where only three “show homes” are not even finished as yet and not even a proper road has been built to the property.
    Finally, why should Harlequin need backing…they admit to having sold over 6000 units in the Caribbean already. Where has all the money gone?

  10. anonymous197

    harlequin will definitely need 3rd party funding as they are only taking 30% deposit and prob less than half of that will be left to actually build once commissions,salaries, marketing costs etc are deducted. simple economics says you cannot build with this small amount so they need more cash inflow to enable any of the the resorts to be built in earnest. whether this is by realising some of the equity in BB by way of banks or from new investors the principle is the same. yes they may have taken hundreds on millions in deposits but they have BB to finish and all the other resorts to start and finish…

  11. anonymous37

    very simple questions that could be asked.

    1. what is the projected build cost of each individual resort?
    2.how are you going to fund it/pay for it?

  12. 144

    @Sandy, I may be missing the point and not understanding the HP model. However, if Marquis has issues with planning etc and could be delayed years, then how were they able to sell 1200 homes by 2009? I don’t know of any developer who does not get all planning in first before selling, and if planning is not finalised, then any monies taken are held in escrow. These are the very basics in development and sales. Anything else would ring alarm bells and an IFA who did a moment’s dd would have seen this. Again, genuinely may be missing the point, but how are investors so patient – he sold you all things he was not in a position legally to build, and did not protect your money in the meantime? Could it be he did nto want to invest his own money first to ensure all was ready to go, perhaps because he did not have any of his own money? Your patience and acceptance is what baffles me.

  13. anonymous37

    very sad. despite all the previous warnings over the years regarding the purchase of overseas properties e.g escrow, dd, independent advice, independent solicitors etc etc it may be that lots of the investors did not do this? why?. was it because they were assured by their ifa / advisor who they may have dealt with for many years and whom they trusted that this had already been carried out as per of their own DD. BUT back to the point in question. i would assume that the only investors that CAN sue are those whose contracts have gone past the completion date and whose contract is watertight with regards to a refund of their monies? OR can they sue regarding breach of contract in that it is alleged that harlequin have stopped making payment to loans that they said they would pay (e.g the initial deposits that they said they would fund the monthly payment interim if you had to borrow).although i have serious doubts about this business model NOTHING has been proven as yet. Investors need to seek appropriate advice from qualified solicitors who can act for them in the country for which/ or against which co they seek to claim. e.g if your contract is with harlequin SVG your solicitor needs to be qualified to practice in SVG (you get my drift)

  14. anonymous37

    would advise all investors via sipp in this to check out their IFA/ Financial advisors / agents websites and their range of alternative investments advertised. maybe they will find that the “investments” are overseas (e.g the caribbean, cape verde, us, panama, saudi, cyprus, bla bla bla etc etc- all unregulated), carbon credits (unregulated), forestry (unregulated)- a range of products that are all generally unregulated and for which the FSA have issued a UCIS warning to ALL regarding the potential breaches of advertising /marketing/selling to inappropriate clients ( all available on the fsa website in uk)

  15. anonymous

    http://www.assetsinternational.co.uk/harlequin-property-open-day-september-2012/

    above links to recent posts / youtube videos showing current construction at merricks and h barbados. i think all could agree that it will be some time until either are completed.

  16. yatiniteasy

    Now lets see a progress report video for Marquis in St Lucia, and the two developments in Santo Domingo. I would be ashamed if I were Ames to show where Merricks is at after more than 6 years, and over 1000 units already sold to investors.

  17. Anonymous

    Am sure show homes will look great, as indeed . Point is, why are they show homes when the place has been sold out for years? H Barbados is hardly a simple refurb as reported on here by an IFA, when they are pouring foundations…
    Marquis has zero activity of any note, and same for the DR allegedly. How on earth any Harlequin investor could be happy with this is beyond comprehension. How the agent selling, Assets International, can put a positive spin on all of this also shows what they are all about. What a terrible outfit, only in this for their own fees and not a single concern about the investor. If they even knew a tiny bit about the Caribbean and the resort industry, they would not be able to recommend this to an investor with a straight face. BB losing millions annually, how much will Merricks lose when it finally opens? How long until any actual profit is being made by this company’s operations? Everyone involved in peddling this nonsense as a good, risk free investment should be ashamed and should be held accountable.

  18. 144

    A question for investors in buccament bay. It is easy to find holidays to bb for 1599 pounds for a week, including flights, Inter island connections, a free meal, discounted spa treatments, free sunset cruise and tennis coaching (actually sounds very good!) Assuming the agents selling this must get 10 per cent, the revenue is down to 1440 pounds or so. The airline will charge 500 pounds or so of that, taking it down to 940 pounds to the resort, or 135 pounds per night, or so, per person. It has been reported on trip advisor that guests must sign for food and drinks, and the bills are high. So, in this case, is harlequin, as owners of the commercial outlets, deducting the food element before passing the revenue onto the pool? Are they charging door the free dinner offered in the package? One must assume the catamaran cruise is not free, so they must be deducting for that too. What about the tennis coaching? If a dinner is us$100 per person with wine, and lunch and breakfast another us$50 for the two, and a few drinks during the day, the 135 pounds in fact becomes a zero number. The question to an investor is, is all this transparent and clear to all? Even if harlequin decide to be generous here, there would seem to be nowhere near enough revenue to cover any basic costs of the resort operation. In the rental agreements, what happens to the losses? Are they carried forward, or how are they dealt with? If as harlequin have stated, they have lost us$1m per month at various times, who is picking up those losses? How are your guarantees being paid? Has this all been clearly explained and if so, would be good to enlighten others invested or perhaps thinking of doing so.

  19. 144

    Good point above. Be good to hear the answer. Of course, if losses are carried over, then the owner’s share of profits may have to cover those losses. IF pricing continues as it is now at BB, it is likely losses will just keep piling up. If BB starts to turn a profit in a few years, and losses have been carried forward, then it ould well be another 20 years for the owner’s share to pay off the US$20m or so of losses to date. Harlequin may of course write that off, which is easy to do when it is someone else’s mone propping it up, but investors would want clarity on that and of course as outlined above how food and so on are treated in an all inclusive rental pool.

  20. yatiniteasy

    Another interesting point is if Buccament is paying the 15 % Vat on the purchases of food, drink etc sold at the resort…even though it is supposed to be all inclusive, some sort of billing is going on, as proved by guests signing bills for everything, and this should therefore be vatable..then again the PM is a buddy of Ames (now a Citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines) and so Vat is probably waived.
    When the proverbial hits the fan, it will be fun to watch friends and buddies run from Ames, as if he has some contagious disease.

  21. anonymous205

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01n2qzr/Rip_Off_Britain_Series_4_Episode_20/

    BBC Rip Off britain. Harlequin approx 20 mins in. maybe any client past their contracted completion date may want to contact them..

  22. Anon - reasons unknown

    I’d advise any investor seeking a refund to contact the BBC.

    Email your details to RipOffBritain@bbc.co.uk

    Or write to them at: Rip-Off Britain, BBC Quay House, MediaCity UK, Salford, M50 2QH.

  23. anonymous205

    latest release from harlequin. lots of promises/ hyperbole / marketing / plans for the future etc etc. simple fact they still have not got full planning for most of the resorts.How are they going to fund it? Blu closing short term???. planning to buy another hotel for refurb whilst estimated 6,000 investors from previous resorts sold are still waiting for any meaningful progress on their investment.

    http://www.harlequinhotelsandresorts.com/downloads/HQ_NEWSLETTER_GENERAL_2012.pdf

  24. 144

    My word, where do you begin. The note from Ames is such extraordinary rubbish, any person with the most basic experience in property development, purchasing or Caribbean resort experience would know that not a single thing in his letter is true. Plus some things are utterly undeniable – there is no work going on in St Lucia, there are a few show homes getting built in Barbados despite being sold out, H hotel was supposed to be a quick turnaround for investors, but will be well over a year later than promised in opening, and Harlequin Air would not be the first new Caribbean airline in 30 years, that is just a silly thing to say. Also, why should an existing home cost so much more than off plan? If selling so much below market price off plan (is there an off plan market in the Caribbean now??), how is he going to pay for the massive infrastructure requirements.

    He keeps referring to success? Where is the success? Surely taking years to build a third of a hotel with funds taken from 6 other resorts as well as the one being built is not success. Running at huge losses is not a success. The rates being charged are very low, they do not have a high Average Daily Rate which basic research on the internet will show you. With all the amenities and the lowe rates, losses just go up. Too much to comment on with that comdey newsletter – anyone who buys into this without doing proper on site due diligence sadly deserves to lose all their money, which is what will happen without any question. Anyone who thinks people who say this have a grudge or a bone to pick with Harlequin are wrong – some people just dont like to see people ripped off from their pensions and scamming people and giving a region a bad name that long term will affect more people. Shame on all those celebrities taking the fees and not doing their own due dilligence.

  25. yatiniteasy

    Boy after reading that “newsletter” I`m just crazy to give Ames my money for something…anything in the Caribbean that he is doing..I mean, you can`t lose, can you>

  26. 54

    If ever there was a man without a coherent plan….that newsletter would worry me if was an investor as just jumps all over the place. Merricks still only at show home stage, Marquis showing the same road cutting photos as a year or more ago, Dom Rep has no activity, and for some odd reason buying existing hotels when so many other comitments remain unfulfilled.

    Sporting events and facilities being talked about, money all going out, and nothing coming in other than investor deposits.

    Blu and BB losing huge sums every month. Anyone seen a rental pool agreement by the way? How are the fees for tennis coaching paid, and football coaching, rugby coaching, flights for all these people, accommodation for all these people, and how is the all-inclusive section of the revenue split up between investors and Harlequin? How can there possible be anything left after a $200 per night rate?

    Does noone know how much utilities cost in St Vincent?? Bizarre that anyone would want to throw their money away with this madness. Meanwhile, Ames loving taking his photos with other sporting celebs and thinking that will be enough to appease investors who are still waiting for their homes to start getting built years after purchase. Keep funding Ames lifestyle investors, and the fees for the celeb endorsers, you are the only and never ending source of funds for Ames, and as long as you keep investing, the charade will keep expanding.

  27. It take s time and lots and lotsoff money so you have to be shore. You won’t. To invest in the first place. Its no youst crying over spilt milk. Iam quite happy with my great investment with harliquine property.sorry 4 spelling

    Going to investmore when i win the lottery

  28. anonymous104

    from another website. successful claim?? BFP to confirm? floodgates open?

    http://www.andrew-drummond.com/2012/10/harlequin-boss-ordered-to-pay-damages.html

  29. 144

    And how do you think he will pay those damages? Like everything else, from new investor funds. Needs to start another hotel “refurb” project so he can take in new deposits to pay off what could now be a series of law suits.

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